July 24, 2024

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Inspired by Technology

Computer system programmer Henriette Avram is born, Oct 7, 1919

Library of Congress photo of Henriette Avram

Henriette Davidson Avram did not established out to revolutionize libraries, but that’s what she did.

Born in Manhattan in 1919, Avram experienced visions of a profession in medicine and commenced premedical scientific tests at Hunter College in the 1930s. She switched gears to study arithmetic at George Washington College soon after her relatives relocated to the the Washington, DC space in 1951.

In 1952, Avram began doing the job at the Countrywide Protection Agency, exactly where her spouse Herbert Mois Avram also labored. There, she discovered laptop or computer programming as component of an early pc investigate program, which she later explained as a “bootstrap operation.”

Just after a stint as a techniques analyst at Datatrol Company, Avram joined the Library of Congress’ Business office of the Information Units Expert in 1965. She was requested to guide a team tasked with analyzing cataloging information to figure out if it could be computerized.

The crew designed the MARC format, Device Readable Cataloging, an automatic cataloging technique. Due to the fact the mid-1800s, library bibliographic and holdings details was typewritten on playing cards, some annotated by hand. When Avram’s team set out to modernized it, the catalog included hundreds of thousands of publications, maps, movies, and recordings. She produced a way to capture the card info electronically, developing a mathematical code, using numbers, letters, and symbols for distinct fields of details.

MARC included the Dewey decimal technique and other classification procedures into a central system, and the Library of Congress facts was stored on magnetic tape. MARC became the countrywide standard for electronic cataloging in 1971, and Avram led seminars at libraries throughout the country to introduce it.

photo of Henriette Avram presenting a magnetic tape containing catalog information to Richard CowardHenriette Avram offered a magnetic tape that contains 9,300 records to the British National Bibliography’s Richard Coward in 1967. Supply: American Libraries

The format led to an international facts regular, which automatic library functions and enabled sharing of information and facts electronically amongst libraries. It enabled the interlibrary loans and searchable holdings functions we use now. The program to encode and manage information was a precursor to the Internet.

Avram wrote the e book, “MARC, its history and implications,” which was printed by the Library of Congress in 1975.

Versions of the MARC procedure are employed around the entire world, in in excess of a dozen languages the most predominant is MARC 21, developed in 1999.

Avram also labored on the RECON Pilot Undertaking, which studied the retrospective conversion of records, and led to the development of a system for structure recognition. This approach permitted personal computers “to assign tags, indicators, subfield codes, and preset-field codes to device-readable records” (Reference 1). It was an early illustration of a “thinking” procedure that was made use of to method MARC information.

Known as “a pioneer of the information age” by previous Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, Avram is credited with transforming librarianship into details science. She acquired numerous prime honors for librarians, which include the Margaret Mann Citation in Cataloging and Classification from the American Library Association in 1971.

Avram retired in 1992, and obtained the Distinguished Services Award from the Library of Congress. She died of most cancers on April 22, 2006.

Currently you can research the Library of Congress catalog and catalogs about the planet many thanks in portion to Avram’s get the job done.


  1. “Mother Avram’s Extraordinary Contribution”: Henriette D. Avram, American Libraries, 1989
  2. Henriette D. Avram, Modernizer of Libraries, Dies at 86, The New York Moments
  3. Henriette D. Avram Remodeled Libraries, The Washington Article
  4. The evolving catalog, American Libraries, 2016

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Also on this working day in tech heritage:
On Oct 7, 1806, Ralph Wedgwood acquired the initially patent for carbon paper, which he invented as component of a device to enable the blind to compose.

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